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Sat, Apr 15, 2023

NBAA Calls Upon FAA to Amend SMS Proposal

One Size Does NOT Fit All

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), by dint of comments submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 12 April 2023, made clear that while the larger aviation industry supports, more or less, de rigueur initiatives to enhance safety of flight, the agency’s new proposal to saddle private, air-taxi, and business aviation with Part 121 Safety Management System (SMS) regulations misses the mark—by a wide margin.

The proposed mandate, detailed by the FAA in a recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), sets out to require all Part 135 operators, certain Part 21 certificate holders, and Part 91.147 air tour operators to implement SMS protocols. In addition to expanding extant Part 5 SMS requirements to the aforementioned operators, the FAA’s proposal adds new mandates to Part 5 itself.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen stated: “The business aviation community considers safety to be a core value and has long been supportive of voluntary implementation of SMS and other safety initiatives. But, for any SMS to be truly effective, it must be tailored to the size and complexity of each operation. When viewed in light of that guiding principle, we request that the FAA work with NBAA and other stakeholders to improve this proposal, so that it better serves the wide diversity of operational types within business aviation.”

In its comments pertaining to the FAA’s SMS NPRM as it currently appears in the U.S. federal docket, the NBAA cited numerous discrete concerns, including:

  • The lack of scalability and flexibility offered by the proposal, especially for smaller operators. The NBAA noted that as written, the broad, overly-comprehensive mandate would apply universally to the largest Part 135 certificate holders, those operating hundreds of aircraft, as well as the smallest mom-and-pop operations—even those with only a small, single-piston-engined airplane and one pilot on certificate.
  • The inadequate timeline provided to ensure effective implementation of SMS requirements. The NBAA characterized the proposal’s 24-month compliance window as “unrealistic,” noting that experienced, independent safety auditors routinely recommend a three-to-five-year timeline for SMS implementation.
  • The uncertainty over whether the FAA is sufficiently equipped to effectively approve and oversee thousands of new SMS programs. The NBAA asserted: “The FAA has limited resources to meet existing SMS oversight requirements, much less to oversee new programs.”
  • The proposal’s failure to align with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and the likelihood it will occasion conflict for certificate holders conducting both U.S. domestic and international flight operations.

The NBAA provided the FAA a number of actionable recommendations, including:

  • Development of a new proposal to allow greater degrees of scalability for Part 135 air-carriers and Part 91.147 air tour operators.
  • Use of less prescriptive, more performance-based language conducive to greater scalability and flexibility, including recognition of industry-established programs and additional, alternate means of compliance with a mandate.
  • A phased-adoption timeline, similar to that afforded Part 121 airlines during the original Part 5 implementation.
  • Utilization of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) following the conclusion of the NPRM’s public comment period. Subject ARC would assist the FAA in its review of public comments pertaining to the NPRM and aid in the development of additional recommendations. Such a rulemaking committee was formed to help oversee and implement Part 5.

Mr. Bolan concluded: “NBAA encourages the FAA to engage with the industry, especially when it comes to new policies related to aviation safety. We welcome the opportunity to work together to explore new pathways for safety that are effective, flexible, and scalable for all types of entrepreneurs and companies that rely on business aviation.”

FMI: www.nbaa.org

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